Retro WON: Shoot to Thrill, Don’t Take Whitetail Mug Shots

None of us can resist counting the antler points of a buck deer’s bony crown. Whether it be for a photograph or a live specimen, we instinctively count the buck’s antler points: “one – two –three” – and so on. Our point-tallying task is simplified when the whitetail turns his head to one side or the other. A quarter turn left or right expands our view of antler detail in both beams.

Photographs of buck deer looking directly into the camera or flat-on profiles cause his antlers to appear smaller than actual size. Both resemble law enforcement mug shots. These non-angle shots hide antler detail that intrigues deer enthusiasts and make us go; “one – two – three – four – five – six – WOW.”


Through years of photographing captive breeding animals for their owners’ promotional purposes, I’ve learned that a one-quarter head turn by a buck enhances the image far more than any camera, lens, flash unit or photo processing software possibly can. When photographing antlered animals, stay alert through the view finder and trip the shutter when the deer, elk, caribou, moose, etc., turns his head away from dead center.Whitetail

As the antler-to-camera angle changes, the effect is so dramatic that the antlers seem to suddenly expand in size and detail. Bigger is better with antlers, and increased detail imparts an impression of greater size. Be certain to focus on the subject’s eye and select an f-stop that will render all antler detail sharply. F-8 is great. To see Tim Flanigan’s most excellent outdoor photography, visit his website.


Voila! One-Two- and here’s Three! See what Flanigan means?

This Retro WON about photographing the whitetail buck first appeared Jan. 3, 2011.

  • About Tim Flanigan

    Tim Flanigan has been producing top-quality photographic images for the print media for more than 30 years.Tim, and his wife, Debbie, operate Nature Exposure, an outdoor writing and photography marketing business in Bedford, Penn.


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